Geopolitics Non-Military Security

Securing the North: NATO’s Response to Russian and Chinese Arctic Ambitions

Michaela Dubóczi

Current trends in Arctic ice melt carry profound implications not only for the planet’s climate but also for the stability and security of the region. There are increasingly acute security challenges associated with environmental degradation, the problematic provision of environmental or food security, as well as cultural and social issues in the Arctic. The region’s growing geopolitical importance primarily stems from potentially positive economic or geopolitical effects: the utilisation of northern sea routes and the estimated rich deposits of oil, natural gas, metals, or rare earths. As the Arctic remains vulnerable to strategic tensions spilling over from other parts of the world, it reflects the tensions between China, the U.S., and the Russian Federation. A pivotal period in contemplating security in the region was the Cold War, during which security analysts and policymakers highlighted the significant rise in tensions between the rival powers. Arctic security during the Cold War was contingent upon a delicate balance of power derived from the threat of using the nuclear arsenals of the rival powers—the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Presently, tensions reminiscent of the Cold War era are resurfacing, particularly as the Russian Federation’s position strengthens and the region becomes increasingly militarised. Russia perceives the U.S. and NATO, in particular, as obstacles to fulfilling its ambitions in the Arctic. Furthermore, the conflict in Ukraine has introduced a new dimension to the conflictual relations among Arctic states, leading to a transformation of the European security architecture. This conflict has also shifted the perception and assessment of risks for building resilience and selecting appropriate security and foreign policy doctrines for the Arctic states. This text will focus on mapping Russian power ambitions in the Arctic region, summarising the engagement dimensions, and highlighting the potentially conflicting relations between Russia and NATO.

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